Track By Track: Ratboy – ‘SCUM’

A guide to Jordan Cardy's debut album...

Ratboy is a phenomenon in waiting.

The Essex songwriter has built his following gig by gig, song by song, watching the crowd's feverish reaction grow as each night passes.

Debut album 'SCUM' is set to be a marker of sorts, a collection of life-changing events from the past 18 months.

Out on August 11th, it's a remarkable document of promise coming into fulfilment, something that speaks honestly and directly about some of the most important issues facing young British people today.

Clash invited Ratboy to break the album down, track by track…

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1. Welcome To My World (intro)
2. Turn Round M8

That song took nearly a year. I had the whole song together apart from the chorus, and then my laptop broke halfway through making it, so I didn’t have the stems for it for a long time. Eventually I managed to get them back so I could carry on working on it. I got some help from Damon Albarn on the chorus and he played some keyboards on it too. I also had a guy called Junior Dan come in and play bass on the verses. He played with The Wailers, he’s wicked.

3. Revolution

That was a fun one. I went out to New York with our drummer Noah Booth to record at the Beastie Boys’ Oscilloscope Studio, and we used the same guitars and drum machines that they used on their records. They’d drawn loads of stuff on their gear, like you could see Ad Rock’s tag on the 808. We also recorded the drums through a Neve desk from the 70s which had a really cool history to it.

4. Stevie’s First Wife (interlude)
5. Laidback

'Laidback' is just a sad love story isn’t it? I wanted to make a really British love song. Graham Coxon plays guitar on it, he’s wicked and I spent a day with him in the studio. It’s got Nick Hodgson from Kaiser Chiefs playing drums as well. It’s cool to work with people like them because they obviously know a lot about music.

6. I’ll Be Waiting

That song was kind of an accident, which we made literally a week before handing in the record. I was with the band and we were just all messing around in the back of Noah’s car. We picked up a guitar from a friend’s house and then I just started playing this chord sequence. After that little idea happened in the car, I sat in Noah’s house while everyone else was down at the studio. Me and Noah worked on the lyrics, and then we all jammed together.

7. Big Fucka Burgers (interlude)
8. Move

I worked with Jason Cox on 'Move', he worked on the first Gorillaz record and Demon Days. We got on really well and he understood the sound I was going for. We hit up Mario C as well, he was on the Beastie Boys’ records and he helped get some of these songs to sound right and authentic.

9. Boiling Point

That gospel vocal sound at the start is actually like keyboard setting on Logic, and you play it in different octaves. I was messing around with that for a bit, and then I came up with a guitar line. I recorded it really quickly. It was the first song I played drums on, but Noah played drums on the final version that’s on the record. My drumming’s awful, but I’m learning. I haven’t actually got a drum kit at the moment, but when I have a kit I’m gonna learn more and hopefully get a bit better.

10. Fake ID

I made that way back in 2014. I was writing loads of stories from back in Chelmsford. I used to ride my bike home from Wetherspoons after doing the night shift. I’d get heckled a lot riding home from work and I could just imagine getting mugged on a Saturday night, as it happened quite a lot in Chelmsford. It didn’t happen to me, but I was writing about the fear of it happening.

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Track By Track: Ratboy – ‘SCUM’

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11. Breaking Newz (interlude)
12. Get Over It

It took a long time to get the verses how I wanted them to sound on 'Get Over It', but I’m really proud of the production on it. It’s also got Damon Albarn playing keyboards on it. You can hear a little bit of his voice too, going through a kind of telephone effect, really low in the mix.

13. Knock Knock Knock

The lyrics are talking about something that happened to me in the studio when I was younger. Some guy burst in and held me and two other guys hostage for two hours because they owed him money. He kicked the door down with his Nike Air Rattles, and then he was calling up his mates so they could take all the stuff out of the studio. One of the other hostages went to the toilet and did that silent call thing to the police. The police came, and I had to go to court and I was really stressed out. It was pretty insane. I was sixteen or seventeen and I met these people on the internet and they asked me to make some music with them. I thought it was my big break, but I got there and everything was fucked.

14. Sportswear

It’s the oldest song on the record. I remember making that in my kitchen, and I put a quilt over my head when I was recording the vocals. It took me quite a long time to get the lyrics right. I used to take a two-hour bus to college and I remember writing the lyrics to it when I was on the top of a double-decker bus.

15. TrumpTowers (interlude)
16. Left 4 Dead

This has a similar vibe to 'Knock Knock Knock'. I wrote it near where we used to skate – it’s an underground carpark with a Co-op nearby. You know people who tell stories and exaggerate everything, and you never know what’s true? I wrote it like a fictional story between a guy who owes money to someone else, and he’s trying to get away from it. It tells that story from two different perspectives and it was inspired by the Eminem song 'Guilt Conscience'.

17. Sign On

I remember sitting there singing the chorus, and I thought, wow, that’s a proper chorus. I’d never really done that before and I don’t know where it came from. It was written on the back of a bus ticket.

I sent it to my managers Tony and Chris and they freaked out about it. They got me in with the producer James Dring, and that was the first time I learned a lot more about Logic. I’d never worked with anyone before, although I knew how to use Logic because I was self-taught. So that’s how I learned a lot more about production, which set me up for the rest of the record because a lot of it is self-produced.

18. Shadows (interlude)
19. Everyday

I was in Blur’s Studio 13 and I made Everyday in two hours. I didn’t expect it to happen that quickly. The record was done but I felt like the label still wanted a bit more, so I wrote this jokey track about getting signed and still not having any money.

20. Sirenz (interlude)
21. Scum

I think I wrote that in my living room. I was listening to Arctic Monkeys at the time and I wanted to make something more guitar-based. We played it live for quite a while just from a simple demo. I made that song three times to get it how I wanted it to sound because I don’t really make guitar tracks. I wanted to get a hip-hop feel but also the live energy of the band.

22. Post-Scum
23. Sad Sad (featuring Mallory Merk)

I’d been in a studio for quite some time, but was back home in my bedroom over Christmas. I was making music at night and every time I’d make some noise, someone in my family would wake-up and shout at me to go back to sleep. So I wrote something more quiet. For the final version, Mallory came down to the studio in New York and we worked on the track together.

24. End Of The Road
25. Kicked Outta School

I had the hook idea in a different beat I made, so I pitched it up and chopped it up into this other song. There was an early version of it on my 'Get Over It' EP but I felt like it wasn’t right, so I remade it for the album. I worked with Stephen Street on it and the band play on it as well.

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'SCUM' is set to be released on August 11th.

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